Dresden Christmas Markets

Striezelmarkt Dresden

When tourists come to Germany, it is usually to one of the larger cities: Berlin for culture, Munich for Oktoberfest, and Hamburg for the delicious fish. Many people skip over the beautiful “Florence on the Elbe,” Dresden. Located about two hours by train south of Berlin, Dresden is a well-connected and beautiful city along the Elbe River. Many Americans will recall the name of this German city from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, but the Germans know one of Dresden’s best kept tourist secrets: the beautiful medieval Christmas markets.

Stollen at the Dresden Christmas Markets

One of the most popular delicacies at the Dresden Christmas markets is stollen. This cake, originally made only from flour, yeast, oil, and water, is a Saxon delicacy that can now be found throughout the Dresden Christmas markets. Similar to the American fruitcake (but so much more delicious!), it is now made with anything from marzipan to dried fruits and nuts, and the oil has long since been replaced with butter to make the cakes moist and flavorful. There is a stollen festival during the Dresden Christmas markets every year, where a 3-4 ton piece of stollen is paraded through the town.

Buying Gifts at the Dresden Christmas Markets

Some of the most special Christmas gifts can be found at the Dresden Christmas markets. The markets are so large; there is something there for everyone on your Christmas list. German handmade crafts are one of the most popular choices. These can include anything from blown glass ornaments to hand knitted socks and gloves for the winter. At the Dresden Christmas markets especially, the Weinacht Pyramiden, beautiful hand crafted wooden pyramids that showcase different Christmas scenes, are one of the most traditional and beloved gift options.

Weihnachts Pyramiden at the Dresden Christmas Markets

Speaking of the Weihnachts Pyramiden, the largest pyramid in Germany can be found at the Dresden Christmas market’s Striezelmarkt. This 14m high wooden pyramid consists of lighted structures, wooden Christmas scenes, and a beautiful spinning fan at the top. It is especially lovely with the background of the Kreuzkirche, a baroque church in Dresden. Dresden’s restored architecture is not to be missed while you’re there—take a stroll around after visiting a Dresden Christmas market!

Be sure to check out a food tour while you’re in Dresden as well—it’s a great opportunity to get to know a different side of the city.

Walpurgis Night traditions around Europe

Soon after Easter comes the ancient festival of Walpurgis Night. This less-known celebration falls on April 30, exactly six months after Halloween. People light bonfires to scare away witches and evil spirits. To the Vikings, Walpurgis Night marked the date they let their cows and goats onto the summer pastures. And many countries in the area celebrate Labor Day on May 1, complete with parades and, in the past, even riots.

 

What does Walpurgis Night celebrate?

Walpurgis Night was first a pagan festival linked with the coming of spring. In the 17th century, Germans added the belief that witches gather on the Brocken mountain on this date. Walpurgis Night is also the night before International Workers’ Day (a.k.a. May Day). The celebrations of spring tie in perfectly to celebrations of workers’ rights. And so does the drinking! Not so long ago, Berlin was quite a chaotic scene on May Day.

 

Who is Walpurgis Night named for?

Valborg was a nun in the 8th century (her name can also be spelled Walpurgis). She founded a convent in Germany and spoke out against witchcraft. Walpurgis was canonized on May 1, 779. The celebration of her sainthood merged with the spring festival over the years.

 

A Walpurgis Night bonfire in Sweden.

Walpurgis Night bonfire in Sweden. Creative Commons 2.0 photo by acb

 

How do people celebrate Walpurgis Night?

One common tradition is a bonfire. You can see bonfires in Sweden, Finland, Germany and more countries. Another tradition is to make loud noises to scare spirits away, similar to the New Year’s traditions too. The Czech name for Walpurgis Night has to do with burning witches and broomsticks are burned on the bonfires there! Meanwhile in Sweden, the bonfires were lit to protect the Vikings’ livestock, who they let out to graze on summer pastures on May 1.

In Finland, people have picnics and drink homemade mead.

Germans often leave out a piece of bread spread with butter and honey called an Ankenschnitt. This is left outside for the phantom hounds and in order to protect people from bad weather or bad harvests.

 

A train decorated for Walpurgis Night

A train decorated for Walpurgis Night in 1990. Creative Commons 2.0 photo by Sludge G

 

For more information about Walpurgis Night, check out some of these helpful pages: The Weekly Rot and about.com.

Spreepark Berlin: Berlin’s abandoned amusement park

Berlin’s not-so-hidden secret is about to disappear. Spreepark Berlin, the abandoned amusement park, has been bought back by the city. A local has been giving tours for a few years, but after April’s over, the future of the tours and the park is up in the air.

Take a tour of Spreepark Berlin to get a very different experience of Berlin parks than usual.

Spreepark Berlin dinosaur graveyard and abandoned Ferris wheel

Ferris wheel in the background, with the “dinosaur graveyard” in front. Photo by: snostein

The story behind Spreepark Berlin

An amusement park in Berlin? Why would anyone abandon that? Well, that depends who you ask. Spreepark Berlin started its life as the Kulturpark Plänterwald (Cultural Park Plänterwald), which stood from 1969-1989. It was the only amusement park in the GDR and saw up to 1.7 million visitors a year. After German reunification, a family took it over. The city gave them a contract with near-impossible conditions. The forest surrounding the park would be protected land. No parking lots or extra parking spaces were allowed to be built, and German law states that if you don’t have parking spaces, you can’t have signs directing people to the park, either. Then, visitor numbers were limited to 260,000 per year – when they would have needed 400,000 just to break even.

In 2001, Spreepark Berlin declared bankruptcy. The amusement park was closed to visitors and abandoned in 2002.

Spreepark Berlin overgrown roller coaster

Roller coaster tunnel. Photo by anvosa has been cropped from the original.

Spreepark Berlin: The Present and Tours

From 2002 to 2009, Spreepark Berlin was abandoned and nature took its course. Then in 2009, the first tours through the park were offered. People jumped at the chance to see the roller coasters and Ferris wheel gone to seed. Christopher Flade leads the tours and, when there’s extra demand, a second group is led by the daughter of the park’s last owners, Sabrina Witte.

Every once in a while, there has been an event at the park. Last summer there was a concert, and before that there was a techno music festival.

Plus, since 2011, Cafe Mythos has been operating near the park’s front entrance. With beer, soft drinks, sausages ’cause it’s Germany, and soft-serve ice cream ’cause it’s not an amusement park without ice cream – the cafe has everything you need for a lazy afternoon in the sun. The matron of the Witte family is still there serving with a smile. But the winds are a-changing. The city of Berlin bought back the land in March 2014, and after April 2014, it’ll be Berlin’s domain. It doesn’t look like the ruins will hang around.

Go and see it while you still can. Tours go twice a day on Saturdays and Sundays, through April 2014. Here’s a link to book a Spreepark Berlin tour. They’re in German, though, so you’ll either have to understand the language, or not mind! You can’t get into the park otherwise, though. The price of €15 includes a walk that lasts at least two hours (sometimes up to three and a half!) and official permission to take pictures.

BahnCard 25 and why to take the train in Germany

Traveling by train is one of the coolest ways (I think) to get around Germany, and the BahnCard 25 is an awesome way to make it even cooler. Cooler on your wallet: the BahnCard 25 gets you a discount. And cooler on the environment: every BahnCard 25 holder since April 2013 has traveled with green energy.

A sample BahnCard 25

What the BahnCard 25 used to look like. Nowadays the red parts are green.

 

What perks come with the BahnCard 25?

Are you traveling by train inside Germany? Are you going to take several trips? If so, it may be worth it to buy a BahnCard 25. The card costs €50 and gets you 25% off all train trips you book. This includes the already-discounted Sparangebote (savings specials).

Is it worth traveling by train in Germany? Absolutely. Off the top of my head, here is a list of all the great things I can come up with about train travel in Germany.

  • It usually costs less than flying.
  • It uses green energy.
  • It can take the same amount of time as a flight or shorter. This includes getting out to the airport, going through security, and getting your baggage afterwards.
  • Train stations are usually in the middle of a city, while airports are nearly always on the edge of town. See my point above.
  • No need to worry about your bags getting lost. They travel with you in the car the whole time.
  • No security checks or lines to worry about.
  • There’s no turbulence and no seat belts. You can get up any time you want to stretch your legs.
  • The food in the dining car is so much tastier than an airport food cart.
  • Every major German city is well connected with the rail, and most smaller ones too. You can get from Berlin to Frankfurt in four hours.

Should I go on, or have I convinced you yet? Here’s one more story. Some businessmen were traveling from Hamburg to Berlin. They didn’t know about the Hamburg-Berlin train route, which takes less than 2 hours. There was no direct flight from Hamburg to Berlin, so first they flew from Hamburg to Frankfurt, then Frankfurt to Berlin. That’s a huge detour, a layover, and a lot more airport hassle. Should have taken the Bahn!

 

When a BahnCard 25 is worth it

Let’s do the math. A BahnCard 25 costs €50, and saves you 25% on every trip. So it will pay for itself if you spend more than €50 x 4 = €200 on your train trips. The BahnCard 25 is valid for a year, so you have a long time to make it worth the investment. Or, if you just want to check out your options, there’s a trial version for four months also available which costs half the price.

Where can you go with a BahnCard 25? Just have a look at the website of Germany’s train company, Deutsche Bahn! There you can see the unbelievable possibilities.

 

What do you think? Do you travel on the train in Germany? Does your country have a rail network? Let us know!

 

We’re gonna try participating in the Sunday Traveler blog party! Sundays are great days to take the train.

 

Have a look at some of the other travel blogs!

ZKM Karlsruhe: All your art is belong to tech

Why you should visit the ZKM Karlsruhe

You don’t often see museums like this. The Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (Center for Art and Media Technology), or ZKM Karlsruhe, is a place where art meets technology. The single building is home to one media center, two museums and three research institutes. That’s what I call an efficient use of space!

 

What’s special about the ZKM Karlsruhe?

These museums are groundbreaking and fascinating. The Media Museum is the first and only museum in the world for interactive art. You can find a game of SMS Pong in the Gameplay permanent exhibition. That’s where four cell phones, attached to a podium, play Pong by communicating through text message. The exhibition takes up an entire floor. It is devoted to the use of art through electronic games. Or you can check out global aCtIVISm from now until the end of March. That exhibit is focusing on demonstrations and performances which bring attention to bad situations.

ZKM Karlsruhe 33 Questions Exhibit

33 Questions Per Minute: A machine uses grammar rules and a dictionary to make grammatically correct questions. It would take 3,000 years to ask every possible question. Photo by Marc Wathieu

ZKM Karlsruhe Car Culture exhibit

Car Culture exhibit. The Germans love cars in all forms. Photo by Alberto Martinez

 

ZKM Karlsruhe – a great location

The ZKM Karlsruhe is located in Karlsruhe! All jokes aside, the building has its own special history, as so many German buildings do. The ZKM Karlsruhe building used to be an arms factory and has been used by ZKM and others since 1997. The modern ZKM_Cube events space is definitely a Karlsruhe landmark.

ZKM Karlsruhe Cube

The ZKM Cube. Photo by: JOEXX

The ZKM Karlsruhe is even home to a movie theater, the Filmpalast. Karlsruhe is about an hour’s drive from Stuttgart. I hope with this article you can see the ZKM Karlsruhe is worth the trip!

Denglisch Words: How to speak like a German!

Living in Germany, you’ll notice pretty early on that some of the stuff Germans say sounds pretty familiar. Denglisch words (“Denglisch” is a mixture of Deutsch and English) are all over the place. Why do Germans use Denglisch words? Sometimes they describe a new concept that German never had a word for. And to some German ears, Denglisch words sound cooler or trendier.

But I think most Denglisch words are used because the German words would be soooo much longer.

Denglisch words in a department store

Denglisch words in a department store. Photo by: Gmhofmann

 

Some favorite Denglisch words:

– using “shooting” to refer to filming. Once a filmmaker friend told me, “Yesterday was the shooting with the children.” He meant he’d taken video of child actors, while I gasped and asked if anyone was hurt!

– replacing German words with English ones. Karte already exists in German, yet train riders can buy a BahnCard. Karte can also mean ticket, but Germans also use Ticket more and more often. A two-in-one Denglicization.

– using the wrong English words, especially for tech. A Handy is a cell/mobile phone and a Beamer is an overhead projector.

– putting German grammar on English verbs. People might say they’ve upgedatet (updated) a system. A text message is called an SMS here, and now Germans are using “simsen” for “to text”/”to SMS.”

 

Of course, not all Germans are cool with Denglisch words. The founder of the German Language Society had a few things to say about it.

Denglisch Words - not so happy

This sign reads: Stop Denglisch! We speak German. Photo by: Rafael Peñaloza

Denglisch words and German sounds

Enough of the mixing and the Denglisch words. Here are a few authentic German sounds to make you sound like a real native. This part was inspired by this post on how French people speak!

 

Alter! Roughly translates to “dude,” “c’mon,” or “oh man.” Pronounced: “all-tah!”

As in: Alter, I don’t believe a word you’re saying.

 

Boah! This one means “Wow” or “Jeez!” Pronounced: “bwah.” The more surprised you are, the longer you should stretch out the “aaahhhh” at the end.

As in: You paid a hundred euros for a pair of flip-flops? Boahhh!

 

Doch. This little word stands in for concepts like actually, but, and the useful concept of disagreeing-with-a-negative. As in:

Steffi: You didn’t make it to the store today, right?
Peter: Doch, I did.

 

Juhu! This is German for “Woo-hoo!” Pronounced: yoo-hoo, with the accent on the hoo!

As in: Juhu, it’s lunch time!

 

Nö… Pronounced like “Neuuuhh.” You know when someone catches you red-handed and you just give them a little, “Who, me?” look? Use a long nöööö for that. Or, when you’re giving an answer of “Nah,” use a quick nö. As in:

Steffi: Did you eat all the chocolate?
Peter: Me? Nöööö…

or:

Steffi: Would you like a receipt?
Peter: Nö, thanks, I don’t need one.

 

Oje. This one is the German answer to (or origin of?) the English oy vey, or ai-yi-yi. Pronounced: “oh-yay,” but means exactly the opposite! For extra-bad oy veys, try “Ojemine,” y’know, like an English speaker might say “Jiminy Cricket!” And that one’s pronounced: “oh-yay-me-nay.”

As in: Oje, there comes the boss.

 

Quatsch! This one means “nonsense!” or “BS!” You can also use it after your own sentence to say, “Just kidding!” Pronounced: kwatch! Like watch with a K in front of it. As in:

Peter: I got front-row seats for the Lady Gaga concert next week for €20.
Steffi: Quatsch, you did not!

 

schweine- as an adverb, more than “very.” Always used for negative things – you can’t say something is schweine-interessant. Germans use pigs to make the bad stuff worse, go figure!

As in:
Das ist schweine-teuer! (That’s incredibly expensive!)
Es ist schweine-kalt. (It’s reeeeally cold.)

 

Zak! means something like “bam,” or “all of a sudden,” or also “chop chop!” Pronounced: tzak! (with a long A, like ahh.)

As in:
I was walking down the street when, zak, it started raining.
Zak zak, guys, let’s get a move on, it’s lunchtime!

 

Now, let’s put them all together. Here we go!

Peter: Juhu, I got tickets for the Lady Gaga concert next week!
Steffi: Alter, you did not! Those tickets sold out zak-zak-zak, 3 minutes after they went on sale.
Peter: Doch, I did.
Steffi: But I bet they were schweine-expensive.
Peter: , they were €20 each.
Steffi: Quatsch. How much did you really pay?
Peter:  €200. Each.
Steffi: Boah, that’s more than I can afford. Ohje, it hurts just thinking about it.

 

What other Denglisch words can you add to the list? What other funny sounds do Germans make? Let us know in the comments below!

Gruene Woche: A taste of the world in Berlin

I know we’ve blogged about Berlin not too long ago. But this topic is right on time. The Gruene Woche is going on through this week and it’s a great event to see. There was a protest staged against it last weekend, and it gets huge press here in Germany.

What is the Gruene Woche?

Gruene Woche translates to Green Week. It’s  an opportunity for the world’s food, farming and gardening industries to show off. The green doesn’t mean eco-friendly, here, just having to do with food, agriculture, or gardening. And it takes place for a week (longer, actually!) A ticket to the Gruene Woche gets you access to hundreds of informative stalls and displays. You can hear local music, taste regional food, buy flower seeds, test an in-home sauna, see organic cooking demonstrations, and go eye-to-eye with prizewinning livestock. And, there’s a whole hall devoted to beer.

Gruene Woche Overlook

The photo’s a bit old, but it still looks much the same. Photo by: _raina_

What happens at the Gruene Woche?

It’s part convention, part massive international market. (Here at germany-travel, we go for the market part!) On the grounds of Berlin’s convention center, exhibitors from literally all around the world flock to the Gruene Woche to show sides of the countries you’ve never seen. Last year I discovered cheese from Romania and reindeer from Norway, while this year I sampled tagine from Morocco and pickles from the next state over in Germany!

Gruene Woche 2013 - Norway

Norway’s setup in 2013. Photo by: Landbruks- og matdepartementet

When’s the best time to visit the Gruene Woche?

In general, weekdays will be less busy than weekends. But I went on a Saturday and survived. If you go on a weekend, the key is to get there as early as you can – the later you go, the more crowded it will be.

Gruene Woche 2013 - Plants

An oasis in the convention center: the plant showcase. Photo by: Anagoria

 

Top Tips for Gruene Woche 2014

  • There’s folk dancing at Greece’s area, and don’t miss the creatively-named olive oil company nearby.
  • Take a tour of Germany without leaving the city. Each state has its own snazzy setup. It’s a great way to discover regional foods and traditional costumes. I recommend Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, try the turkey salami products and the Störtebeker beer!
  • For a natural break, make your way to the plant showcase. The air is fresh, the plants are lovely, and they have water dispensers.
  • Avoid the Austria exhibition if you can. I’m only saying this because one end of the hall narrows and causes a horrible bottleneck. It took us 15 minutes to herd our way out of that 50-f0ot-long human traffic jam.
  • Buy eggs from a vending machine in the organic hall.
  • Or, for the pescatarians, chow down on a fish-based currywurst!

All in all, the Gruene Woche is a fun experience for the whole family and a really interesting way to see a snapshot into other countries you might not have known about before.

Lubeck Marzipan: Almonds as you’ve never imagined

Germany’s best-known marzipan comes from Lubeck, on the Baltic Sea. Read on to learn a German New Year tradition featuring Lubeck marzipan and some interesting marzipan facts.

 

Marzipan was brought to Europe by the Crusaders, but it’s popular around Europe and has left traces and traditions all over the world. Countries from Germany to Italy, Estonia, Portugal, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Belgium all have special ties and traditions with marzipan, and marzipan-like sweets can be found in Iran, Latin America, India and the Philippines.

 

Lubeck marzipan fruits

Why are those fruits plastic-wrapped? Look closer… that’s not fruit, it’s marzipan! Photo by: GaijinSeb

 

What makes Lubeck marzipan so special?

Within Germany, Lubeck marzipan is such a tradition that it has its own protected geographical indication (PGI). That’s the same name protection as Champagne and Roquefort cheese. Some Lubeck marzipan makers have been at their craft for more than a century. That’s a tradition with a history.

 

Traditions with Lubeck marzipan

The New Year is around the corner. Have you got a German you want to impress? Be prepared as the clock’s counting down. Germans have a tradition of giving out pigs made from Lubeck marzipan at the new year. There’s still enough time to get all your pigs in a row (get it?), but only if you hurry! So where should you rush to find the best Lubeck marzipan?

 

Lubeck marzipan schweinchen pigs

Photo by: Alice Wiegand

 

The best place to get Lubeck marzipan

First, get yourself to Lubeck! Lubeck itself is well worth a visit. It’s a lovely city with a gorgeous Old Town and beautiful architecture. One popular spot is Niederegger, which hosts a Lubeck marzipan cafe and a well-stocked gift shop. They’ve even got a cool quiz machine where you can win your own piece of marzipan if you answer three questions in a row correctly. And don’t miss the special tea offerings, flavored with – what else – the house’s own marzipan.

 

Lubeck marzipan variety

There is something there for everyone. Unless they don’t like marzipan at all. Photo by: Susie Wyshak

From fruits to Marzipankartoffeln (yes, that’s marzipan potatoes… just don’t try making potato pancakes out of them), to solid logs flavored with chocolate or booze, to colorful animals, seasonal decorations and even dinosaurs: The makers of Lubeck marzipan are nothing if not creative! While you’re getting your Lubeck marzipan piggies, snap up a few other tasty companions for those oinkers. One bite will have you saying “wee, wee, wee” all the way home.

Berlin Christmas Markets: ‘Tis the Season!

Berlin Christmas Markets at Potsdamer Platz

Photo by: onnola

Yesterday was the first of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Here in Germany the start of Advent is a big deal. It means the festive season can really start – and the doors of more than 60 Berlin Christmas markets open in earnest. Whether you’re shopping for unique holiday gifts or just want to enjoy a glass of mulled wine, you can find it at one of the dozens of Berlin Christmas markets. As the days get shorter, tourists and locals alike flock to Berlin Christmas markets to enjoy a warming glass of mulled wine and special winter treats: candied nuts, gingerbread, and lots of Wurst! No two Berlin Christmas markets are alike. Read on for some ideas on how to make the most of the Berlin Christmas markets, whether you’re here for a weekend or the whole season.

Berlin Christmas markets are something special.

From arcades and thrill rides to Scandinavian charm to outdoor skating rinks, Berlin Christmas markets are incredibly diverse. And if one of them doesn’t tickle your fancy, there’s bound to be another one within just a few subway stops. The nights are long and many Berlin Christmas markets are open from early afternoon until 10 PM. When the sun sets early, the best cure for darkness-induced blues is the sparkle of Berlin Christmas markets, the sugar rush of sweet treats, and the buzz of the festive atmosphere.

Surviving Berlin Christmas markets – Tips for your wallet and your waistline

The biggest shock for many visitors to Berlin Christmas markets (or Christmas markets anywhere in Germany) is the concept of Pfand. It’s a deposit for the charming mugs they serve mulled wine in – anything from 50 cents to a few euros. It’s not included in the price of the wine, but it’s always written somewhere. If you give your mug back, you get your money back – but for the price of the Pfand, you can also bring the mug home as a keepsake. It makes a lovely gift, too, if you don’t have room for German beer steins in your suitcase! You can scout out the Berlin Christmas markets to find your favorites. Some Berlin Christmas markets have mugs with pictures of nearby landmarks (like the TV tower at Alexanderplatz), or write out the location and sometimes the year (which you can find on the mugs at Gendarmenmarkt).

Like in any market situation, I suggest making your way around the market square first and having a look at all the options. There’s a huge selection of food and drinks at all of the Berlin Christmas markets, and with so many standard Christmas market offerings there are always a few repeats. It’s all too easy to be caught up by the first stalls, then see a tastier-looking option just a few meters away.

Berlin Christmas markets are a hotspot for pickpockets. Keep your valuables close and safe! Stay alert and follow the precautions you’d take in any bustling urban space. Zip your bags and pockets, keep camera straps around your wrist or neck, and so on.

This is wintertime, and the food is rich. You won’t find many healthy options at Berlin Christmas markets. Carnivores can feast on dozens of sausages, while dairy lovers will have their fill of cheese from vendor stalls or raclette to go, smeared on slices of dark bread. The classic meat-free option is a crispy potato pancake slathered with applesauce, but a big bowl of sauteed mushrooms with garlic sauce is also delicious and easy to find at any of the Berlin Christmas markets. Keep your hands warm with a hot drink: apart from mulled wine, the more adventurous can try mulled beer or mulled apple wine with cinnamon. Cookies, waffles, candied almonds and roasted chestnuts are par for the course, and there are always plenty of samples to taste. Load up on your healthy foods during the day, then eat your heart out at the Christmas market!

The best Berlin Christmas markets

So, now you’re ready to experience Berlin Christmas markets for yourself. But with so many to choose from, where do you start? Here are a few special Berlin Christmas markets to get you inspired.

The Lucia market in Prenzlauer Berg’s Kulturbrauerei specializes in Scandinavian and Nordic specialties. Stroll around the candlelit square for a charming atmosphere with Scandinavian music playing and vendors offering Finnish honey, Swedish elk bratwurst, and a dozen variations on mulled wine, glogg, apple cider, mulled beer, or hot chocolate. Of all the Berlin Christmas markets around, it’s particularly intimate and special.

The WeihnachtsZauber market at Gendarmenmarkt is a perfect example of how Berlin Christmas markets should be – offering dozens of vendor stalls, a stage hosting neverending performances, classic Christmas music on the speakers… and with such a perfect atmosphere, it’s packed elbow-to-elbow with other eager visitors. Sandwiched between the French and German Cathedrals and charging a 1-euro entrance fee, the Gendarmenmarkt market also stands out for its upscale offerings: sit-down restaurants, a heated tent of artisan vendors, and costumed performers interacting with the crowd. Be sure to visit the Fassbender & Rausch chocolate shop-cum-cafe nearby to see some of Berlin’s most famous landmarks erected in solid chocolate.

Berlin Christmas Markets at Gendarmenmarkt Weihnachtszauber

Photo by: Gertrud K.

Finally, the be-all and end-all of Berlin Christmas markets – well, it’s a tie between Alexanderplatz and Potsdamer Platz. Alexanderplatz’s market is larger. Along with every sort of vendor you could imagine, it’s home to a carousel, thrill rides and arcade games, an outdoor skating rink, a snow-producing Christmas pyramid, and the huge Alexa shopping mall nearby. Get in a bit of sightseeing by checking out the TV tower while you’re there. Meanwhile the Potsdamer Platz market opens its gates in late November and boasts a massive onsite snow-tubing hill. After a mug of mulled wine, you could catch a movie in English or German at the Cinestar theater nearby.

Berlin Christmas markets at Alexanderplatz

Photo by: Charlott_L

That’s all you need to know to get started in the Berlin Christmas markets. Which are your favorites?

A Go Trabi Go Roadtrip

Go Trabi Go: A working Trabi from a spy museum

Photo by: Elizabeth Suckow

There have been some pretty strange German things that I have noticed since moving here. Curry ketchup is one of them; it’s the only kind of ketchup I’ve ever requested on fries in my life. Hefe beers are another; who knows how I survived so long in California, the land of IPAs (bleh). There’s also one non-food item that I have to think of when I think of Germany, and especially Berlin: the Trabi. A semi-affectionate name given to the Trabant, even the word ‘Trabi’ has the ability to take some people right back to Germany before the wall fell. This frankly matchbox sized car is the subject of much nostalgia and quite a bit of joking, especially with former owners of the spunky soviet car. This reflection on Trabi’s for me inspired something, though. Having never owned one, I decided to do a bit of research.  Luckily Google brought me the classic 1991 film Go Trabi Go. Go Trabi Go was one of the first films made in Germany after reunification, and follows a family (the Struutz’) on a Goethe (yes the philosopher) inspired roadtrip in their Trabi (that is at least 20 years old) from their home in Bitterfeld to Naples. Yes that Naples. The one in Italy. It is a genuinely enjoyable movie to watch, and I wholeheartedly recommend checking it out. But seeing how this is technically a Germany travel blog, and not necessarily a Germany culture tchotchke survey (like it has been for the past couple weeks) I figure I’d try my hand at crafting a roadtrip guide based off of Go Trabi Go. So here it goes. Here’s my version of a Go Trabi Go Trip!

Go Trabi Go Trip: Get to Know A Trabi! 

A little background: the Trabant was the only car produced in East Germany, and this made it the fastest and most readily available car to most East Germans when it was first released in 1958. Further more, the production methods and designs for this crazy little car hardly changed at all over the car’s nearly 30 year lifespan. But, as you might notice, 1958 was a while ago; to put it nicely the Trabant did not age well. This made Trabi’s and their two cylinder engines look like toy cars next to the gas guzzling sedans of the 70s.  By the 80s, Trabis were something of a joke, as they were mostly famous for falling apart really well, going slower than anyone in a car ever needed to go, and belching an oily smoke at any sign of effort by the engine. They also became a sign of the inefficacy of the East German government; production shortages often meant month or even year long waiting lists for parts and new cars. And yet, Trabi’s still have their little tires hooked into the hearts of some Germans. However, to their benefit, as seen in Go Trabi Go, the car is insanely easy to put together again, and seems to have the suspension of a monster truck. Also the Franken-Trabi they end up with in the end looks pretty sweet.

And now to begin the roadtrip! Firstly, I want to say I do not recommend finding a Trabi to take you on this journey. No offense to any Trabi die-hards out there, but they really are unreliable vehicles, especially today. Secondly, I’m not even going to provide direct map directions here. As I don’t even know how to drive in my native California I think it would be irresponsible to dole out driving instructions in a foreign country. For the sake of this article, and everyone on the roads, I’m just going to provide links to bus lines that run between these three cities. Also thirdly, if you’ve seen the film you will realize that the story follows the Struutz family from Bitterfeld to Naples, but I’m only going to guide you through the German portion of their trip from Leipzig to Munich.

Go Trabi Go: Okay this one is definitely a toy

Photo by: János Rusiczki

Go Trabi Go Trip: Leipzig →Nuremberg

What the Struutz’ did in Leipzig:

  • Stayed: Well, they kinda live here, in the nearby town called Bitterfeld
  • For fun: Well… They left to start their great Go Trabi Go journey…

What you should do:

  • Stay: For the budget crowd, the Say Cheese is a fun, cheeky hostle in the city center that is clean, cozy and modern. And for those of you who can enjoy the better things in life, one of Leipzig’s nicest five-star hotels is the Steigenberger Grandhotel Handelshof.
  • For Fun: Take a stroll through the city center and enjoy the marvelous 16th century architecture that survived in this majestic city through the Second World War. It’s also worth mentioning that Bach, Wagner and Goethe himself all lived, studied and worked in this city at some time in their lives, so many museums, monuments and exhibitions can be found dedicated to these great minds. If you’re a fan of literature, you can visit the setting of a scene from Goethe’s Faust, and if you’re crazy for classical music, the church where Johann Sebastian Bach worked as Cantor still stands in the city center.

After a few days soaking in the greatest of German culture, head south to Nuremberg.

What the Struutz’ did in Nuremberg:

  • Stayed: With their annoying (not to mention racist) relatives in a creepy trailer in the relative’s backyard
  • For Fun: Tried not to punch said annoying (racist) relatives or piss off the gigantic dog who lived in said creepy trailer

What you should do:

  • Stay: Hostel goers should check out Arthotel for a great value and location, while Le Méridien Grand Hotel provides an amazing five star experience. And feel good in the fact that no matter where you stay, you’ll probably be doing better than the Struutz clan.
  • For Fun: Nuremberg is a city with a lot of history, like a lot of German cities. While you’re here you can enjoy the castle towers scattered around the city, and see the location of the Nuremberg trials of World War II. There are also some great museums to check out in this small city, including one dedicated to toys.

Once you’ve enjoyed a bit of a history lesson and a view, head even further south to Munich.

Go Trabi Go Trip: Nuremberg → Munich

So the Struutz family was lucky enough to have their Trabi towed for this part of the trip, by a jovial truck driver who really never stopped laughing. Highlights of this amazing scene include this fantastic Trabi joke:

-How do you double the value of a Trabi?

-Fill it with petrol

Too bad we didn’t get to hear the other 117 Trabi jokes that driver had up his sleeve!

What the Struutz’ did in Munich:

  • Stayed: In their Trabi (yes, three grown adults slept in a miniture sized four-seater overnight) unknowingly on a nude beach (which I might mention has the fittest bathers in the world. Seriously, I thought nude beaches were all over-fifty-and-you-should-have-pants-on kind of places. Well done for proving me wrong, Munich!)
  • For Fun: Go shopping! The ladies head to the mall to shop for bathing suits to begin their Italian portion of the trip, while the father heads to the scrap yard to find a new bumper for their poor Trabi they call ‘Georgie.’

What you should do:

  • Stay: While I couldn’t find any rooms near nude beaches, the Wombats City Hostel in Munich provides a comfortable, hip atmosphere that the Wombat hostels are known for.  If you’re into living it up, head to the München Palace for a charming stay you’ll not soon forget.
  • For Fun: Munich is definitely a great city for shopping, so if you’re inclined to follow the Struutz’ lead, Neuhauserstraße and Kaufinger Straße are famous for their offerings. But Munich has more to offer you than a lighter wallet. It is easily known as one of the most beautiful cities in Germany. Take a lovely stroll through the English Gardens, or if you’re lucky enough to visit in late September remember that little thing called Oktoberfest? Well it was invented here (more info about this traditional festival can be found here at our previous post on Munich’s Oktoberfest)!

And who knows, maybe by the time you get to Munich you’ll also have the road-tripping bug under your skin and head even farther south to Italy just like the Struutz family did in Go Trabi Go.

But hey, that’s a whole other blog, isn’t it?

Proudly powered by WordPress
Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.

Threesome
Orgy
Anal
Blowjob
Threesome
Creampie
Creampie
Blowjob
Orgy